Some of us dream of earning that Doctorate Degree in Nursing. Others shrivel in fear at the mere thought of attending another day in a class. Which are you? I would love to make my living being a student, but I’m pretty sure no one would hire me for that type of position.
When it comes to nursing, our education never ends. Stethoscopes and scrubs may have replaced textbooks and syllabi, but practicing nurses will never run out of things to learn.
Nurses are challenged continually with new equipment, new procedures, and even new pathologies that didn’t exist when they were in school. Bedside knowledge and skills are imperative to provide quality care, but what about that advanced college education? Do nurses like you really need a higher level of education to care for your patients?
The truth is that healthcare leaders, clinical policymakers, and licensing authorities have long agreed that continuing education makes a difference when it comes to nursing skills and quality patient care. Formal education programs have a significant and direct impact on the competencies of the nurse clinician. There is growing evidence that shows a BSN graduate will bring unique skills while playing a primary role in delivering safe patient care. The fact sheet from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) linked below helps demonstrate the impact that nursing education has on your nursing practice.
For years we have seen a tiered level of nursing education: vocational certificate, diploma, associate degree, baccalaureates, master’s degree, and doctoral degree. Some would say if I can pass the NCLEX-RN/LPN©, the national licensing exam for nurses, why do I need more education? Recently, there were people who passed it without attending a nursing program at all (that’s a discussion for another day). The NCLEX is a multiple-choice test that measures the minimum competency for safe entry into basic nursing practice. It is just what gets you in the door – it is your responsibility to remain proficient and up to date on all things healthcare.
If you aspire to move into a leadership role, the requirement is to have earned at least a BSN. However, many prospects seeking leadership roles have a master’s degree or higher. In the 19th century, Horace Mann, a pioneer of American public schools, famously called education the “great equalizer of the conditions of men.” Without additional education, we will not be equal to the other candidates in the workforce.
Historically, CEOs of hospitals have extensive business or financial education backgrounds. In March 2022, Becker’s Hospital Review reported the following: “An analysis of the CEOs leading U.S. News & World Report’s top 20 hospitals reveal just two have nursing backgrounds: Johnese Spisso, RN, president of UCLA Health and CEO of the UCLA Hospital System; and Regina Cunningham, PhD, RN, CEO of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.” For nurses to make a difference at the administrative level, we must be in the boardrooms of Hospitals and healthcare systems. The only way to get invited to that table is to have a higher level of education.
Now, for those of you still shriveled up in the corner – don’t give up just yet! There is still hope and plenty of opportunities to further your education outside of the traditional classroom setting. Another way you can advance your nursing career is by joining a professional nursing organization. Membership in these organizations can provide you with networking opportunities, continual education and certification courses, educational conferences, and many more professional development occasions. Whether you want to become Florence Nightingale, DNP, CEO, or a charge nurse, continuing your nursing education equips you with the knowledge you need to provide the highest quality of care possible. In the end, isn’t that what nursing is all about?
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